A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT


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Wrapup: Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews

Written by Brendan

Thursday November 11, 2010

If there’s one word I could use to describe last night’s show, it would be “beautiful.” Though I’m not sure that quite does justice to the performances by Horse Feathers and Anais Mitchell.

Sadly I missed Paddy Reagan (as Paper Castles), who opened the show. I got there to a fairly packed house (I didn’t bother to try and count the people, but the Showcase Lounge was significantly more full than I’ve seen it in a very long time). I have to assume that Anais (a Vermonter) was the big draw, but regardless of why they were there, it was nice to see such a large crowd for a folk music show.

Horse Feathers came on first (they were co-billed with Anais, and I’m pretty sure she’s been opening for them, so again, I have to assume it had to do with the show being in VT). They are a four-person band, with Justin Ringle on vocals & (mostly) acoustic guitar, Catherine O’Dell on cello, Nathan Crockett on violin and Sam Cooper as a multi-instrumentalist (including drums, banjo, xylophone and a variety of others).

Horse Feathers

They played several songs from House With No Home, my favorite album of theirs, as well as a lot of songs off of their latest album Thistled Spring. Ringle’s vocals were obviously the highlight of the show, imparting such sorrow without being weepy or melodramatic. I also particularly liked the plucking of the cello, and my personal favorite instrument of the night — the edge of a cymbal played with a bow. Definitely never seen that before, and it created such a unique sound.

As the sunlight dwindles, the days get colder and winter nestles in for the long haul, Horse Feathers put on a performance that seemed to perfectly match my mood. You can be sure that they’ll be on heavy rotation for the cold, dark months to come.

Anais Mitchell took the stage with a couple of her friends, one on electric guitar and the other on drums/keys/etc. They played an assortment of her solo material and songs from her rock opera “Hadestown.” This is the second time I’ve seen Anais play (the first being my very first show in Burlington, in early 2007), and she has definitely made huge leaps forward. Her voice is still out of this world, but she appeared much more confident and at home in the spotlight, where she definitely belongs.

Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010

The songs I liked most were the ones Anais played alone — I think her voice tended to shine more (it’s really tough to describe, but I think caramel coated sugar is a good descriptor). I heard a couple of different people in the audience talking to each other about how outstanding her singing voice is, and I couldn’t agree more. Not that she isn’t already well on her way, but I expect very big things from Anais as more people have the chance to hear her sing.

Because folk music doesn’t always translate well at a live show, I tend not to go to folk-ish shows very often, but Anais Mitchell and Horse Feathers proved to me last night that a folk performance can be as captivating and beautiful as any.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

3 Responses to “Wrapup: Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell @ Higher Ground 11/10/2010”

  1. Jeff says:

    Wish I was at this show. I’ve really been wondering how Horsefeathers would sound live. Thanks for the report!

  2. todd patrick says:

    hi, i guess i don’t understand your comment, ” folk music doesn’t always translate well at a live show” i play music for a living and folk music is at it’s best LIVE. i believe it is such a true form of music and being played live by real folks. a live show is the essence of what folk music is about. i will make no assumptions about what kind of shows you usually attend, but saying folk music doesn’t translate to a live show is ill-informed.

    • Brendan says:

      Hey Todd, thanks for stopping by. I guess a better way to put it is that I’ve found myself proportionally more bored by folk music shows that I’ve seen than shows that leaned more towards rock. I expect more than just someone sitting a chair and reciting their songs when I pay to see a live show, and unfortunately that’s what I’ve experienced more often than not. Sorry to hear you have a different opinion than me, but thanks for sharing it, and if ever you play in the Burlington area, drop a note and I’ll come have a listen.